I remember him calling me for the first time on his lunch break from his patrol car. Within ten minutes it became very clear that if a relationship with a police officer was anything like trying to carry on a simple phone conversation with a police officer, challenging was going to be an understatement. Between the radio squawking in the background to the interruptions of other officers talking back and forth, his attention being distracted by passing traffic and the mid-sentence "I have to call you back", which happened at least five times during that first 30 minute conversation, I knew I was in store for something on a whole other level.
Being a police wife or "LEO wife" as we are known, is quite the interesting life. Police marriages fall victim to an extremely high divorce rate, and there is a good reason for that. Let me start off by saying just as in all professions, there is good and bad in everything somewhere down the line. It is true that there are good cops who honor the badge and bad cops who don't. Those who uphold their duty as officers and honor the badge far outweighs those who do not. And those who do not should be held accountable for abusing their power and should be stripped of it and punished accordingly. Just as in all professions, the good cops will tell you they have no appreciation or tolerance for those who misuse their power and in turn, contribute to the negative image many have of the police. It is difficult sometimes even talking to family or close friends about a life in law enforcement due to so many misconceptions of the true character of the majority of officers. Many times you are immediately brushed off by those who really aren't interested in hearing about it because being married to a cop, people either love you or hate you. The fact remains, whether you love cops or hate cops, everyone dials 911 when they have an emergency, and if you are one who considers the police an enemy, you are still the first to expect them to be there to assist you. Regardless of your opinion of them, they will still be there in your time of need. As the saying goes....."Hate cops? Next time you're in trouble, call a crackhead." Let me know how that works out. That being said, I, like so many other LEO wives, am married to a good cop. This is our story.
The abnormalities of a LEO wife's day begin with the shift. We do not base our days on normal hours, our days coordinate with whatever shift our LEO is working. There is no such thing as a standard 8 hour day in the life of a LEO or a LEO wife. In an average week you will have several days where the end of his shift comes many hours after it ended. A simple traffic stop turns into a drug bust, another officer calls for backup, there is a multiple vehicle collision and they need more officers. A LEO wife learns to cook dinner for her family, and keep a plate warm in the oven. In a LEO household dinner can be midnight or later, breakfast is at lunchtime, and lunchtime can be as late as 9:00p.m. There are many times I will try and meet my husband somewhere for "lunch" only to be left waiting because a call came in while he was in route to eat, or I will end up going home without ever seeing him at all. Times he will plan to come in for dinner are often thwarted for the same reasons. All that effort you put in marinating that steak, or fixing his favorite dessert will most times go unnoticed. You will put your children to bed most nights alone while explaining that Daddy loves them, he's just out making sure we're all safe. You will sleep with one eye open, both ears focused on the sound of the garage door and your cell phone on your pillow. Your children will learn to recognize the sound of the garage door opening at a very early age, and they too will sleep a little better after Daddy comes in and kisses their little cheeks.
Holidays, special occasions, anniversary's and birthdays are just days you must be prepared to work around. My LEO works lake patrol in the summer months. For us, there is no such thing as the Fourth of July or Memorial Day or Labor Day. We will never be available for the family reunion or summer picnic on any of those three day weekends. If you want to take your children to see fireworks, be prepared to go alone because not only does he work all weekend, he is working mandatory overtime 12-16 hour shifts. And although if he does have seniority he can actually get the holiday off, chances are he will sign up to work overtime, trying to get ahead just a little bit....after all, one may think you would get a little more money in the bank by walking around with a bull's eye on your back for a living, but for some reason, all that public service comes at one heck of a bargain.
Trying to have a date night is always interesting. You will wait longer to get a table where he can face the door. You will watch him scope out the lobby on the way in for anyone he has previously arrested and you will not get through the meal without another officer calling his cell. You will be grateful if you can keep him awake after you get home, as chances are you squeezed in date night after a shift anyway, and you will learn to not take it personally when even at your best, you cannot compete with his exhaustion.
Grocery shopping or trips to crowded locations can become a game of "I spy a felon". You quickly learn the "aisle over" strategy. When your LEO suddenly announces "don't turn around" or "we need to get out of this aisle now" or "wait, wait, wait....ok go, go, go", your instincts may be to want to know who we are avoiding and what the story is behind it, but you will learn quickly to follow instructions and ask when you get to the car. You will also get the "walk away" lesson. If you are ever with your LEO in public, especially with your children and you are told to "take the kids and go" or "walk the other way now", you will learn to shake off the instinct to remain by his side, and without question, you will do as you are told. This is not a control issue by any means and you will learn to recognize there is a very big difference between your husband being controlling by ordering you around and your LEO husband recognizing a situation in which he needs to protect you from those that recognize and hate him, and those he does not ever want to recognize you as his wife when he is not with you.
You will also learn to laugh at things you never imagined, such as the phrases only a LEO family could consider "normal"....."Honey, another hooker peed in my car, I have to go by the City garage and hose out the back before I come home"......"Honey, I've got 10lbs of pot to inventory, I'm going to be late, oh and head's up, there's blood all over my shirt". "Honey, there are a bunch of cows in the road by the tracks, I've got to run some traffic control before I can get home"...."Honey, some idiot is naked at the sno cone hut, hey did you know they have coconut now?".
You will learn that even when you are having a really bad day and you just need his shoulder to lean on or his ear to bend, you may have to wait. And when you do have the chance to vent be prepared to be hung up on, interrupted or only partially paid attention to or heard over the noise of the radio, which never stops and is always heard first. When you accept that your needs will have to wait until the end of the shift, be prepared to have him snoring almost instantly as you begin to finally vent.
You will find a way to tune out those "breaking news" alerts on the local news when he is on duty. Whereas in the beginning you would instantly call his cell to make sure he's alright, over time you have learned that he won't answer if he's in the middle of something and calling only to get no answer will really leave you worried that he's hurt or in trouble. You will learn to remember that he is also fully aware he is on the nightly news and will call you as soon as he can.
You will learn not to ask how his day was. He will share what he needs to, bottle up what he has to and act like everything is fine when it isn't. You will know when it was a bad day without asking and you will be there if he chooses to share, but you will learn that not sharing does not mean not caring. It just means reliving it is not appealing before dinner, and some of the horrific images embedded in his mind he would love to find a way to forget.
You will learn that a Police Officer lives his life on duty. There is never a time he does not feel compelled to be alert and as the saying goes "prepared for anything, anytime, anywhere". You will learn not to be annoyed at his repeated instructions to "be aware of your surroundings", "watch your speed", "park close to an exit" and "never let the gas light come on in your car". Although there are times you want to scream "I AM NOT A TEENAGER, I GET IT!", you will learn that it is just the way he is wired as he sees so much that he never wants to happen to you and your children.
Being the wife of a Police Officer means you must be as dedicated to his love of the job as he is. The first step toward that order is realizing it is not a job to him. It is who he his. There is a reason Police Officers choose a profession with low pay, horrible hours, immense stress, non-existent holidays and a huge potential for danger. It is because they are called to duty. They are compelled by a desire to help those in need, to make a difference....to protect and serve. Being the wife of a LEO means having a mutual respect and understanding of that fact and being willing to make the continual compromises and sacrifices to enable your LEO to be able to head off into the night in the best frame of mind he can possibly have.
Being a LEO wife means putting your husband first, not out of a sense of duty or out of submission or control, but out of love and respect for all he faces each time he walks out the door. You will learn to understand that being frustrated is normal, but being resentful and angry is not an option. Things that are a huge deal to most wives such as holiday traditions, the perfect birthday party, the family photo shoot scheduled for weeks, a date night you spent a month looking forward to, the biggest football game of your son's high school senior year, your baby's first ballet recital....all of those things to a LEO wife are considered just something else she may end up dealing with alone. Frustrating? Absolutely. Disappointing? Always. Worth sending your LEO out into danger knowing you are furious with him? Never. A LEO wife will learn to hold her tongue, tell him she loves him, kiss him goodbye, and say a prayer that he comes home so she can yell at him later. We are human, we still want what we want, but we learn to see the bigger picture.
My three year old son loves his Daddy. You will find more "PoPo" cars in the toy chest than any other toy. He idolizes his father and even at only three years of age, he understands there is something about what Daddy does that makes it a big deal. When Daddy leaves for a shift my son MUST go to the driveway and wave good-bye as Daddy turns on his lights and pulls away. It is a ritual that our son came up with all on his own. My son can also instantly recognize the sound of the garage door and knows the difference between the sound of Daddy's engine and that of his teenage sisters. He will stop anything he is doing and run for the door when he knows Daddy is home. Nights that we spend alone we pray together that Daddy will help keep everyone safe and that he will come home soon. My son always asks me to "promise" that Daddy will come see him when he gets home if he is asleep. They say children can sense things and I absolutely believe he understands there is a reason it is a big deal when Daddy leaves and an even bigger deal when he returns.
There are many many times I wish for a moment of selfish indulgence. Although I cannot remember the last time I wished for something just for me. Instead I wish for "us". I wish for no radios or pagers or on call weekends. I wish for alone time and snuggle time and quiet moments of peace. I wish for certainty of safety and a guarantee of growing old together. I understand no one has that guarantee and most couples with children and careers and busy lives wish for the same things, but for me it seems so constantly unattainable. Oddly, you would think that the longer you have been married to a LEO, the easier it gets. For me at least, it seems to get more difficult in certain ways. The longer I am with him, the more I see, the more I know and the more it makes me realize how real the dangers can be. Being supportive of sending your best friend out into danger each day is not always easy but part of being a wife is supporting his dream. I knew from the moment I met him what I was signing up for. I wouldn't trade it for the world. My husband is a wonderful man with a work ethic like no other. He works day and night to support his family and protect his community. He has been called to this line of duty and I am one of those LEO wives who literally beams with pride when I see him in that uniform. He is an amazing father, a loving and supportive husband and as hard as it is to find time for each other, we manage to make it work. He is my best friend and I cannot imagine a day without him in my life.
There are many people out there that view cops as lazy, crooked, donut eating fools with a chip on their shoulders and pride swelling due to a gun toting power trip. As stated above, there are bad people in every profession. There are also good people in every profession. For the good ones, consider and remember this.....Police Officers live each day fully prepared to lay down their lives for any given stranger at any given moment. They spend countless hours away from their family to help protect yours. They will face those persons with nothing to gain when they themselves have everything to lose. They begin each shift knowing it could be their last, and they have the added stress of knowing their spouse and children are home waiting, hoping and praying they never see the Captain at their front door. I love my LEO.
In 2010, 161 officers were killed in the line of duty. 161 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives who will never kiss their families again. They died protecting and serving the citizens and non-citizens of this country. They died at the hands of repeat offenders, parolees, drunks, drug addicts, political and religious radicals. They died helping innocent people change flat tires. They died responding to traffic accidents and domestic disputes. They were murdered in cold blood making routine traffic stops. They died doing what they were called to do, regardless of the circumstance.
Be grateful for our Police Officers.
A side note....
Since publishing this article, it has been viewed over 250,000 times, shared on Police Department web sites, LEO wife support sites and various Police news and magazine sites. The positive support and feedback has been overwhelming and I would like to add this to simply acknowledge how wonderful it is to see so many LEO's, LEO wives and family members of LEO's be able to relate to so many of the things written in this article. There has also been so much support from all over the US and other countries from people with no connection to any LEO in their families, thanking me for bringing awareness to what life as a LEO and a LEO wife entails. There has been extremely little negativity regarding this article, and I am actually very nicely surprised by that. Out of over 20,000 views and over 100 comments to date, I have received only 3 negative comments, which I did not post, only because I do not want this to become a forum for debate or argument or have anything distract from the purpose of this article. This is not a discussion board, and there is a time and place for debate. I want this article to be an uplifting voice of encouragement and positivity for LEO's and their families.
I do wish to address one comment received, oddly enough, from a LEO wife. Her opinion of this article was that I was trying to gain "glory" and hero status of my own simply for being married to a LEO. She found it appauling that I would make a suggestion about those who have merely "enjoyed the view". She suggested I was imputing a "god-like" status to LEO's and LEO wives and belittling those in other lines of work who make daily, dangerous sacrifices as well. To that I would say, my article is about Police Officers. It is not about oil field workers, firefighters, EMT's, coal miners, loggers, construction workers or the countless others who are in harms way just by going to work each day. I have no reason to write a personal account about that which I do not know. Just as I cannot speak for the countless wives and husbands of our Troops who's daily sacrifices far outweigh that of which the majority of us can comprehend, and to whom I could never express enough gratitude. My article is in honor of my husband and all the other LEO's who are heroes in their own right. Praising one does not equal the diminishing of others. I have never and would never think that what my husband does every day somehow makes what anyone else does less important or dangerous. Or that my role as his wife somehow makes my wife status more important than anyone else's. My comment about those who have simply "enjoyed the view" is made specifically to those who have done just that....looked at all the calendars of hot shirtless cops, or flirted with a police officer to try and get out of a ticket, or for those who simply see a uniformed police officer and shrug with loathsome disrespect. It was meant to say..."there is a whole lot more about that uniform and the character of the man/woman wearing it than you might understand, and you should know if you don't, and be aware if you're not". The entire point of this article is to make it clear that our LEO's are heroes and regardless of all the sacrifices LEO spouses make each day, those sacrifices are well worth making to ensure our heroes have the love and support they need to face what they face each and every shift. There is no question that it takes a certain kind of person to be able to remain consistently patient and understanding and selfless regardless of the circumstance. Do I think that in someway makes me an angel deserving of "glory"? Absolutely not. I do think it is proof positive of my intentions in writing my article....our LEO's need good women/men as spouses to appreciate all that comes with the uniform and all of us fail at times, get frustrated at times and need some encouragement to remain focused...certainly me included. This article is is about being supportive and appreciative despite the multitude of upsets. It is about remembering to appreciate each day and never take it for granted. As stated before, I LOVE MY LEO